TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) - Planned Parenthood said on Wednesday it would drop a petition for an emergency injunction against Florida health officials, after the state backed away from what the reproductive health group had called an attempt to redefine gestation periods.
Yet Florida health officials vowed to continue investigating Planned Parenthood, disputing that it had changed its position.
The dispute comes after Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott ordered regulators to investigate 16 Planned Parenthood facilities amid a national controversy over secretly recorded videos that opponents say show the organization illegally selling aborted fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood, which provides healthcare services for women nationwide, has denied any wrongdoing.
In Florida, no sale of fetal tissues was found, but state regulators cited three clinics for what it called second-trimester abortions, in violation of their licenses.
Planned Parenthood contended that the state was using new and unannounced measurements to make the allegation, effectively shortening the definition of the first trimester.
The state Agency for Health Care Administration had long defined it as the first 12 weeks of pregnancy or the first 14 weeks following the last normal menstrual period, Planned Parenthood said.
The agency seemed to agree in a letter sent to Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida on Tuesday, the day after the organization sought an emergency court injunction.
AHCA General Counsel Stuart Williams wrote that the Planned Parenthood facilities “are authorized within the scope of their current licenses to continue providing terminations of pregnancy during the first 14 completed weeks from the last normal menstrual period (i.e., during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy/gestation).”
Barbara Zdravecky, head of the southwest and central Florida group, said “the concession by AHCA has removed the immediate necessity for an injunction and we will not pursue one at this time.”
“While we will of course cooperate with legitimate investigations, the public does not want elected officials spending time and money looking into bogus claims that are just part of a political agenda,” she added.
Amid media reports of a Planned Parenthood victory, the Florida agency issued a second letter saying its position had been misrepresented.
Planned Parenthood attorney Julie Gallagher said an injunction was no longer needed, but her organization still wanted a court declaration that pregnancy terminations up to 14 weeks were legal in the three southwest Florida centers.
“Despite that rather blustery letter from AHCA today, nothing has changed,” she said.
Reporting by Bill Cotterell; Editing by Letitia Stein and Eric Beech